Fun With the Canucks Salary Cap

It’s been a tough week for Vancouver Canucks fans. From trades that never materialized before the trade deadline to a string of losses, fans need an alternative means of hockey related entertainment and joy. Even if it involves the the local team. Luckily, the youth movement seems to be going well enough and that lends hope to this demoralized fan base.

That hope is bolstered by the next wave of Canucks prospects. There’s new cause for excitement on that front to boot, as 2014 third-round pick, Nikita Tryamkin, concluded his KHL season on Thursday and is now available to sign with the Canucks. Reports indicate the Canucks are intent on signing him, too.

Now that’s cause for excitement. A puzzle-piece in the Canucks future could be put into place before season’s end. It would give fans something to smile about, anyways. The lanky Russian defender could be patrolling a blue line near you not-so-long from now. 

Or at least it seemed that way…

Initially, one wonders how that is even possible. I had seen some suggestions of the Canucks possibly having some cap issues, but it was placed on the back-burner with the trading deadline. But the tweet above peaked my interest again to dive deep into this.

So I enlisted the help of fellow Canucksarmy writers Jeremy Davis and Petbugs to try and figure out how this happened. Surely if three basement bloggers could figure this out, the Canucks can too.

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All the information below is how it appears to us based on our best knowledge.

The Problem

Setting aside the obvious fact that a roster of this quality should be nowhere near the cap, let’s get into this. Put simply, the Canucks have tied their own hands contractually going forward and the impact has the potential to reach beyond Tryamkin. General Fanager has confirmed that the Canucks have only placed Brandon Sutter on LTIR, meaning they haven’t filed Alexander Edler for that same distinction. Based on this, Jeremy Davis was able to figure this all out with his calculations below (with Sutter on LTIR):


So as mentioned, the Canucks are alright. As long as Sutter is on LTIR, they can exceed to cap to ‘replace’ his salary. However if Sutter is deemed healthy and available to able to play, they would need to activate him and thus would need to fit him underneath the cap ceiling; that’s where things start to turn. Once again, Jeremy ran the numbers and if the Canucks re-assign Gaunce back to the AHL, and activate Sutter:

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With that, the Canucks run into serious issues. This basically means that Sutter is stuck on LTIR, unless the Canucks are able to put Edler on LTIR. But Edler is actually expected back before Sutter. So they may be able to buy some time, but having both of them isn’t an option. This isn’t the end of the world, as Sutter may not be back, but the Canucks have to be ‘set-up’ to allow his return.

Possible Implications

So how does this precarious situation hurt the Canucks in the future?

Once again the key part here is, that these implications will only rear their ugly head if both Sutter and Edler are available to play. Although not definitive, that is a plausible situation.  As mentioned above, at this point, they are unable to activate Sutter from the LTIR. But if he becomes healthy enough to play, there could be some issues that arise:

The Canucks inability to sign Tryamkin and assign him to their AHL or NHL roster could have significant impact on his desire to come to North America. The financial implications especially could scare Tryamkin away. Vancouver does have the option of signing him, having his entry level contract start next season and then have him sign a PTO to play out the remainder of his season in the AHL. From Tryamkin’s standpoint though, why?

After playing a full KHL season and playoffs, the thought of extending his season by another month for limited compensation may not worth while. Obviously, we don’t know what Tryamkin is thinking or what his motivations are, but the Canucks are now unable to offer him the ability to burn one year of his entry-level contract and the few weeks of NHL salary due to the possibility of Edler and Sutter coming back.  That is the worst case scenario, but still a plausible thing that could happen.

While looking into this further, another detail that could not be looked over came up and it’s huge.

If unsigned by June 1, 2016, Nikita Tyramkin would become a UFA. Due to the fact that the Tryamkin was drafted in his 20-year-old season and D+2 season, he isn’t subject the ‘standard’ 4 years of rights for European players. The CBA rule can be found below:

article 8.6

Article 8.10

Given this, if the Canucks are unable to sign Tryamkin before June 1, 2016, he would become a UFA. If Sutter remains on LTIR, this won’t be an issue. There have been reports that Tryamkin has already agreed to a deal. But until it is official, there may be some issues getting the deal done.

This issue also reaches a bit further to another current prospect – 2014 2nd round pick Thatcher Demko. Let’s preface this with, if Boston College makes the NCAA Frozen Four (Apr 7-9), then the following point is moot. But as with any playoffs, the Boston College Eagles could lose, and Demko would be available before then. As with Tryamkin, the Canucks haven’t signed Demko, and the one favourable option they had to offer was the burning a year of his ELC by having him appear in one game with hopes of leaving school a year early. So if Demko’s season ends before the Frozen Four, and the Canucks approach him to sign, the financial and contractual benefits of getting in one NHL game are gone.

If that wasn’t enough, another issue of their cap problems is that if the Canucks approach any high end NCAA or CHL unrestricted free agents, they once again, are unable to offer burning that one year of ELC. Whether the Canucks are pursuing players like Yale goaltender Alex Lyon, Providence’s Brandon Tanev or University of New Hampshire’s Andrew Poturalski – the Canucks are now unable to offer that. Since, like every other NHL team, the Canucks are limited to certain levels of financial compensation with entry level contracts, the Canucks are now a step behind other teams. Current prospect Mike Zalewski was even able to get this ‘benefit’ by appearing in two games at the end of the 2013-14 season, after the Canucks signed him as an undrafted NCAA player. So it’s safe to assume the aforementioned highly sought after free agents will at least factor that into their decision.

For a team that is rebuilding on the fly like the Canucks, the fact that they may lose out on any of these free agents just because of this issue, would be considered a serious misstep.

How they could’ve fixed it

You can look back at the past year and half and see where the Canucks could’ve made moves to avoid this issue. Even looking as far back as the Luca Sbisa and Derek Dorsett extensions as the first mis-step of not trying to save every dollar possible. Could they have found a taker for Chris Higgins or Brandon Prust before their value sewered to zero?

This past Monday’s trade deadline was another opportunity to make room. Moving any one of Matt Bartkowski, Radim Vrbata, Yannick Weber, Linden Vey and of course Dan Hamhuis would’ve gone towards creating enough space to at the very least limit this issue.

This could all obviously be moot, if another Canucks player were to suffer an injury that would allow them to place said player on LTIR. But, waiting for an injury isn’t a prudent way to run an organization.

In fairness, this issue isn’t so bad that they can’t ice a full time like the Calgary Flames of a couple of years ago. It just means that they have limited their options for the reminder of the season. Time will tell if it will cost them in the long run in the form of Thatcher Demko, Nikita Tryamkin or possible NCAA free agents. But at the very least, in regards to activating Brandon Sutter, they’ve put themselves in a corner that they can’t really get out of.

I mentioned earlier this week that the Canucks did not ‘paper’ any players to the AHL, thus eliminating the ability for them to sign them to the AHL. That same papering could have also been applied to Yannick Weber. Since Weber cleared waivers earlier this month and did not appear in 10 NHL games or been on the NHL roster for 30 days since the waiving, they could’ve easily assigned him and recalled him. If they had done this papering transaction for any of Markus Granlund, Bo Horvat, Ben Hutton or Yannick Weber, they would at least have some more flexibility to allow the activation of Edler and Sutter. Since that was not done, none of those players can be assigned to the AHL.

Their options to fix it now

The simplest and most likely situation will be keeping one of Edler or Sutter on LTIR for duration of the season. All they would need to do is take the path of ‘shutting them down’ for the remainder of the season. Doesn’t need to be both, just one or the other. The only issue with this is, if the team doctors deem both of them to be healthy to play, they would have to play but the argument can easily be made that due to Sutter’s jaw injury, he was having issues eating and thus was unable to maintain conditioning etc. As I mentioned above, this is the probable sequence of events.

The other option is not pretty, and that would be assigning one of Jake Virtanen or Jared McCann back to junior. So after 70+ games on the NHL roster, they get re-assigned to the CHL. Optically, this would be awful. The Canucks have been selling youth, and the would need to send one of the their future building blocks back to the CHL for a handful of games (if any).


So the Canucks do have options available to them to fix this issue, but the fact that they have put themselves in this situation is of great concern. As outlined above, in the past there have been a handful of simple ways to fix this. Now they tow the line trying to avoid making the issue any bigger than it needs to be.

There is obvious events that may simply be avoided by it playing itself out naturally, but they are in this situation. Based on the rumours of Tryamkin being signed, it would lead us to believe that one of Sutter or Edler won’t be back this season. But until that deal is officially announced, we won’t know for sure.

Once again, thank you to Jeremy Davis and mystery man Petbugs for the help with untangling this web.

  • Vanoxy

    This is where the Miller, Sbisa and Dorsett contracts come back to haunt us.

    Benning loves “his” guys and is willing to pay them well above what the market demands.

    I got ripped on eklund’s site the other day for suggesting that these three deals were poor cap management, yet three days later they cause unnecessary stress.

    Dorsett is what he is, a 4th liner with heart, which I respect, but there’s no way on the open market that he gets a $2mil+ per year deal thrown at him.

    Spisa was due $2.9 mil as a qualifier, yet Benning gives him $3.6mil + term????

    Miller was coming off his worst season ever, and a complete bust in St Louis, plus had stated publicly that he wanted to play on the west coast, but Benning threw all that leverage out the window and signed him to an elite goalie deal.

    $12 mil/year, tied up in a 4th line plug, a past his prime, backup level goalie and a 3rd pairing defenseman is not good management, no matter how you look at it. And now it is hampering the future of the team.

    • TrueBlue

      @Nick—-May I respectfully suggest that re-hiring Lawrence Gilman might be a more important first step to the “Keystone Kops management by crisis” squad we now see leading our team?

      So curious that starting with AV, then MGGM then Gilman, Henning and “Carling (?)” were all let go and replaced by an all rookie team (in their positions)when the team was most in need of veteran and experienced management….but perhaps the owner has his own take on what “management” entails?

      • TrueBlue

        My gawd, Gilman was an assistant, assistant, I repeat assistant general manager – or as Allen Iverson would say “practice”. He’s so good, he’s currently acting as a TA grading law students quizzes for Gillis’ law class at Uvic (which is pretty awesome by the way).

        • Mantastic

          do you mean the same Lawrence Gilman who is respected league-wide for managing to keep the nucks under the salary cap despite the team paying $10M usd ABOVE the cap?

          The same guy who took salary cap management to the level of a science?

          I imagine he is working on a low key job level as he can sit pretty on the dollars collected for the remainder of his contract.

          If it wasn’t clear in my reply to this article, which was entirely to do with salary cap problems, then I apologize for not being concise….but my point re salary cap mgmt stands…we had “the best” and now we endure “the rest”

          • Whackanuck

            Gilman’s role was far more than capologist as he was assistant GM and a VP. His role was that of the chief negotiator of all player contracts and the head of amateur scouting.

            I suggest that it was the latter role, head of amateur scouting, that caused conflict with others who wanted that role, namely Benning himself and John Weisbrod. After all, one can have too many VP’s. Too bad, but giving up scouting would have been a step back for Gilman and I doubt he agreed even if it was offered.

  • Mantastic

    Lack of cap flexibility also hampered trade deadline day. Teams like Toronto were able to take on players like Laich for futures. It was mentioned Chicago was willing to deal, but Vancouver had to have room for Bickell…

    In a vacuum, you can argue choices around things like Bartkowski over Corrado aren’t a big deal, but when you make a string of small mistakes, they add up to bigger problems.

      • TrueBlue


        Laich has one more year too. If you’ve got cap space you can take someone like Bickell on to make a Hamhuis trade more palatable and maybe get a pick thrown in for taking Bickell off their hands.

        Then, if the owner is willing, you can buy Bickell out.

        Point being, a team this bad shouldn’t be up against the cap. If you’ve got 5-10 million left to play with when rebuilding, you can be creative and you’ve got more options.

  • Ca-nuckle head

    2 things:

    1. I don’t think the effect on Demko is as important as the author indicates. Demko can get an extra year’s pay and start his post-elc contract sooner just by signing for next season.

    Demko still has a year before he can become a free agent and while the Canucks would love to sign him for next season, they don’t really need him this season and I think he’s a serious enough student to stay at BC and finish his season. As the writer says, the Canucks can’t burn a year off his elc, but it isn’t a situation they’d likely be doing so anyway.

    2. I think there were plenty of ways the Canucks could have dealt with this issue if they’d treated the cap as important. One easy one, partly mentioned, would have been to use LTIR more readily. If they’d put Sutter and Edler on LTIR the week they were injured, the problem wouldn’t arise. If they’d put Higgins on LTIR for the beginning of the season (RIP Frank Corrado as a member of the Canucks) the problem wouldn’t arise. I think there have been other situations where LTIR wasn’t used when it could have been.

    And of course, if they’d papered even one or two players to Utica on March 1, they’d have more options, though they’d be somewhat awkward.

    Of course, another that was mentioned was the amount paid in extensions and choices of players.

    Hopefully they can scramble out of it alright, but imo the issue shouldn’t have arisen.

    • TrueBlue

      If Demko could be signed while the Canucks are still playing, they’d burn the 1st year of his 3 year ELC. That’s what happened to Gaudreau in 2014. He signed right at the end of the NHL season, played 1 game, and ended up burning a year and getting a $92K bonus for 1 game’s work. That will end up making him millions of extra dollars since his ELC expires this year as opposed to next. It’s a pretty big carrot to put out there for signing NCAA players.

      As for you second point, when a player is put on LTIR doesn’t really impact things. Sutter was put on almost immediately, but putting Edler on right when he was injured wouldn’t have made sense. There’s not point in putting anyone on LTIR until you’re going to make a transaction that requires the exemption, and since they didn’t do that putting him on was pointless. You can’t accrue cap space when using LTIR so there’s no benefit to doing it earlier than necessary.

  • TrueBlue

    Article still has relevance now that it sounds like Tryamkin is coming over. Look at it like an “if/then” statement we can use to predict what the Canucks roster plans are for the rest of the season.

    If the Canucks are planning on having Edler & Sutter come back to the line-up, we’d have trouble signing Tryamkin & Demko. Even if the daily calcs allow for some wiggle room, it’s doubtful that they’d allow for two full contracts.

    Reading what was paraphrased on Twitter, Benning has stated that he wants to try to sign some CHL/NCAA free agents as well, so it looks like he expects to have some cap room.

    With Sutter already on LTIR, Edler previously scheduled to come back earlier, and Benning trading for Granlund, it’s looking pretty likely that Sutter is out for the year.

    Which in my mind is a minor win for the tank. Now if only Edler decides to rest up and pack it in for the season…

  • TrueBlue

    I wonder how much cap space they would’ve had if they dealt Hamhuis and Vrbata at the deadline. Hmmmmmmm…

    Dorsett and Sbisa are overpays but not huge amounts. I like what DD brings but Sbisa is a bit much at times. Still, he’s not making crazy money. I’m hoping Benning haslearned he can’t be that generous with guys. I would’ve been fine seeing Sbisa battle for a contract as an RFA.

    It might be best to shut down Edler or Sutter. Edler could probably do with an extended off-season. He did break a bone on his leg.

    Bring on he Russian bear!

  • Marvin101

    A last place team that can’t even sign a kid to an entry level contract due to a mismanaged salary cap.

    Maybe aqua man won’t hire 3 rookies to run his team next time.

  • TrueBlue

    I think it is becoming apparent to all that a specialist in the salary cap/negotiations is required in the canucks management. It seems benning/linden and now weisbrod are all draft/scouting focused. Considering how benning and linden have both stated they spend a significant amount of time traveling and viewing prospects it starts to make more sense why they haven’t utilized more creative methods to trade players. They don’t have the time or inclination for that kind of thinking

    • Mantastic


      So much is made of Benning’s ability and interest in being the head scout without discussing the “opportunity cost” that is involved. If one guy is so busy doing things not really in his job description, it means that other things are falling by the wayside, or being done by someone below that pay grade.

  • TrueBlue

    F everyone who has passed the point of anger on the Canucks trade deadline inactivity. Still so grumpy about it. We have crap managers and owners running the show.

    Do you think that after that trade deadline debacle – and so many prior missteps – that they can even staple papers together the right way? Gawd, got the guys out of there.

    And Hamhuis, you come out of this looking good? Buddy, you chose Dora the Explorer with your kids ahead of winning a cup.

    Show our young guys how it’s done.

    • Ragnarok Ouroboros

      “Do you think that after that trade deadline debacle – and so many prior missteps – that they can even staple papers together the right way? Gawd, got the guys out of there”

      Couldn’t help it; but the visual of them trying to use a stapler and being totally baffled by it made me laugh inside.

    • TrueBlue

      That pain is there man, I don’t have to look very far to find it. It’s still an open wound. I’m just hoping that they’ve learned from it..

      It did serve a purpose in strongly affecting public opinion, so hopefully the effects have positive repercussions. If not, then we’ll probably see something similar happen down the line, which I am not looking forward to. But the reactions will only get stronger if these kind of actions continue, and something’s got to give.

  • TrueBlue

    Can’t get over how some fans can not get over the fact that Chicago has gone for familiar forwards & depth defenseman at trade deadlines. They have 3 of best defenseman in the world who can play 25-30 minutes in a game, they didn’t want Hamhuis over Ladd.

    Dallas wanted Russell over Hamhuis as Doug Maclean had been reporting on hockey central at noon (9am pst) for about a week leading up to tdl.

    In regards to Vrbata would you want him for your team on a playoff run, I sure wouldn’t.

    Why people think because Toronto did something we should have done similar. TO is in a different situation with many expiring contracts & a deeper prospect pool as a result of being out of playoffs pretty much all of this millennium.

  • Ragnarok Ouroboros

    The trade deadline day failures were even greater than I first imagined. That was a dark day, and they have now painted themselves into a corner.

    So why don’t they put Edler on LTIR automatically? Are there some restrictions I don’t know about? If you can get LTIR cap relief, why wouldn’t a team do it every opportunity they could?

    Also, could Canucks waive Vrbata. Perhaps a team would take him for their playoff run since they won’t need to give up anything for him.

  • wojohowitz

    From what I’m understanding, there are two situations if the Canucks sign Tryamkin to play in the NHL THIS SEASON yet:

    1. Both Edler and Sutter are shut down for the season;
    2. Either McCann or Virtanen are sent back to their Juniors team.

    I don’t see how else it works — Canucks have 20 healthy roster players that can’t be sent anywhere (11 fwds, 7 d, 2 goalies) and 2 on IR that can’t be sent down if they come back. McCann, Virtanen and Gaunce make 23 but only Gaunce can be sent to the AHL.

    If they sign Tryamkin to the big leagues and play him in the NHL this season, I don’t think they can send him down — making 21 healthy players stuck in the NHL, with 2 possibly to return from IR. The only way out then if Edler or Sutter are healthy is to send one of the kids down.

    Am I understanding this correctly?

  • Mantastic

    Nick your solution is the best,fire the 3 blind mice.the stooge factory of incompetance.

    We need to sign Demko,we need to sign Tryamkin and by not papering these 4th line nucks to utica once again braindeadbenning has not taken advantage of legal loopholes more experienced and winning gm,s would have done!

    This management is a total gong show and we the fans got gonged!

  • TrueBlue

    Carolina, who sits 8 points above us, made deadline deals that netted 5 picks and 3 prospects. They now have 21 picks in the next 2 drafts including: 3 firsts; 4 seconds; and 6 thirds. That’s how it’s done, Mr. Benning!

  • Smyl and Snepsts

    Waive Vrbata. Nothing against him but he most certainly will not be here next year. Only 950,000 in cap relief but should be lots for a rookie contract for Tryamkin.

  • Marvin101

    What a well managed organization! ????

    Good thing Gilman is gone! Wouldn’t want an experienced professional playing devil’s advocate. Much better having an inexperienced group all agreeing with each other’s decisions.

  • Marvin101

    Well according to Cat Silverman via Slapshot she has reported that Tryamkin has been signed by Canucks, although she was unsure of how they managed to fit the contract into the cap structure.

  • mgg

    I’m not sure I understand why the cap plays into signing Tryamkin as a professional. If they sign him to a two-way ELC, can’t they just assign him to Utica? (i.e. no NHL cap hit)